Press Releases

    GA/AB/3744
    20 June 2006

    In Budget Committee, Governments Express Concern over Link of Financial Support to Progress on UN Reform

    Feasibility of New Permanent Building on North Lawn also Discussed in Relation to Capital Master Plan

    NEW YORK, 19 June (UN Headquarters) -- "Member States cannot, on the one hand, be calling for the reform of the Organization, while, on the other hand, through their actions bring it to the brink of financial insolvency", South Africa's representative, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning, as it continued its discussion on reform issues and on those concerning the Capital Master Plan.

    On 16 June, a series of detailed reports on reform by the Secretary-General had been introduced, as requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 60/260 of 8 May.  Previously, in his report entitled "Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide", the Secretary-General had outlined 23 broad reform proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations that responded to the requests addressed to him by world leaders at the September 2005 Summit.  The documents introduced on Friday presented proposals in the areas of information and communication technology; budget implementation; financial management practices; and measures to improve reporting mechanisms, including public access to United Nations documentation.

    The representative of South Africa said that on 21 May 21 the Group of 77 had held a special ministerial meeting in Malaysia where it had reaffirmed its strong support for the United Nations and collective efforts to enhance its ability to fully implement its mandate and programmes, in particular in the social and development fields.  Efforts to use financial contributions to push for the adoption of certain proposals were counterproductive and violated the obligations of Member States as enshrined in the Charter.  In order to avoid a crisis, the Group of 77 reaffirmed that the limit on the expenditure of the Organization imposed by the General Assembly on 23 December 2005 should be automatically lifted upon receiving the request of the Secretary-General.

    While supporting many of the proposals, including on improving the Organization's information and communication technology infrastructure, the creation of a post of Chief Information Technology Officer at the Assistant Secretary-General level, adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and increasing the level of the Working Capital fund, the Group could not consider the report on limited budgetary discretion, as it did not respond to Assembly resolutions 60/246 and 60/260.

    The representative of the United States said some modest progress in reform had been achieved since the September 2005 World Summit.  Now, the necessary steps must be taken to demonstrate that the United Nations and its Member States were fully engaged in a "lasting revolution of reform".  It was regrettable that the full range of management reform proposals from the Secretary-General's report on "Investing in the UN" had been scaled back.  In order to demonstrate commitment to real reform, it was critical that Member States took up the actual review of mandates of the Organization.

    Regarding the Capital Master Plan, a report had been presented on Friday on the possibility of constructing a new permanent building on the North Lawn.  Stressing that the funding approval for the Capital Master Plan was now becoming critical, the Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director for the project, Louis F. Reuter, had said that, in order to prevent further cost escalation for the inevitable renovation of the existing buildings, Member States should act without further delay on the recommended phased strategy for the implementation of the Capital Master Plan, leaving consideration of the possibility of a permanent structure on the North Lawn for a later date.

    Switzerland's representative said the construction of a new permanent building on the North Lawn was a valuable option, which made economic and long-term corporate sense.  However, she supported the Secretary-General's recommendation of strictly separating the renovation of the Headquarters from any plan of constructing a new permanent building.  At this late stage, it was important to focus on what was really at stake -- the urgent need to renovate the Secretariat Building in order to ensure the safety and well-being of its occupants.  Any further delay had to be avoided.

    Echoing the sentiment of other speakers, she said it was with great regret that her delegation had learned of the resignation of Mr. Reuter, who had brought "a breath of fresh air to this Committee", and wished him all the best in his future endeavours.

    Again speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, the representative of South Africa said that the Group continued to fully support the comprehensive plan for the refurbishment of the UN Headquarters complex.  It was very disappointed that the Secretariat had been deprived of the funds that were needed for the refurbishment to proceed expeditiously.  As for the report on the possibility of constructing a new permanent building on the North Lawn, she said many details had not been provided.  Also, there was no further information regarding swing space requirements.  Much of the additional cost faced by the Assembly was due to the reneging on the commitments made by the host country and the collapse of many of the assumptions that had initially underpinned it, including the availability of swing space.

    The Group reiterated its commitment to the project and did not wish to see any further delay in its implementation, she said.  The Group believed that the option of having additional capacity in terms of a new building should remain open, and concerted efforts should be made to undertake a more detailed, thorough and objective analysis of the idea of constructing a new permanent building on the North Lawn.  One of the urgent issues that had to be decided at this session was that of the financing of the Capital Master Plan.

    Also making statements today were the representatives of Cuba, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Japan, Argentina (on behalf of the Rio Group), Russian Federation and Nigeria.  Katrina Nowlan, of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, made some short comments.

    The Fifth Committee will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, 20 June, at 10 a.m. to consider expenditure authorization for the biennium 2006-2007.

    Background

    The Fifth committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its discussion of Friday morning (see Press Release GA/AB/3743 of 16 June) of the Secretary-General's detailed reports on the reform proposals, on the use of open source software and on the Capital Master Plan.

    Statements

    KAREN LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said she supported the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) recommendations on the issue of open source software.  On 21 May, the Group had held a special ministerial meeting in Malaysia where it had reaffirmed its strong support to the United Nations and collective efforts to enhance its ability to fully implement its mandate and programmes, in particular in the social and development fields.  The legitimacy and viability of all reform measures would depend on the broad support of Member States, as well as that of United Nations staff.  The Group stressed that Member States should demonstrate their commitment to the United Nations by ensuring the provision of adequate and predictable resources.  "Member States cannot, on the one hand, be calling for the reform of the Organisations, whilst, on the other hand, through their actions bring it to the brink of financial insolvency."  Effort to use financial contributions to push for the adoption of certain proposals were counterproductive and violated the obligations of Member States as enshrined in the Charter.  To avoid a crisis, the Group reaffirmed that the limit on the expenditure of the Organization should be automatically lifted upon receiving the request of the Secretary-General.

    She said proposals that touched on the role and prerogatives of Member States in the General Assembly fell outside the scope of the World Summit decisions.  Those were issues that had no relation to the management reform of the Secretariat.  It was, therefore, regrettable that the Secretariat had not fully implemented resolution 60/260 and had resubmitted some proposals that had no relation to the management reform issues.  The report on limited budgetary discretion did not respond to resolutions 60/246 and 60/260 and could, therefore, not be considered.

    She said the Group supported measures to improve the infrastructure of the United Nations regarding information and communication technology, including the development of a comprehensive information and communication technology strategy that would enhance inter-connectivity between Headquarters in New York and other locations, the creation of a post of Chief Information Technology Officer, and replacement of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS).

    It was important to maintain and enhance the credibility, transparency and accountability of the financial processes and transactions of the United Nations, she said.  The Group, therefore, supported the Secretary-General's proposal for adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).  It also supported increasing the level of the Working Capital fund.  The Organization regrettably found itself in a precarious financial situation due to non-payment and late payment of dues by Member States.  Increasing the level would not solve the bigger political problem of late payment of dues.

    She said the Group was sympathetic to the Secretary-General's request to apply the budgetary surpluses to meet either the costs of the unfunded liabilities arising from after-service health insurance or from the increase in the level of the Working Capital fund.  It should be noted, however, that the Secretary-General would not have had to make that proposal if Member States had met their commitment to the organization in full, on time and without conditions.

    As for the proposal to consolidate peacekeeping operations accounts, she said such a consolidation might provide a more predictable cash flow to operations and permit a more timely reimbursement of troop- and police-contributing countries.  Consolidation, however, would not solve the problem of non-payment or late payment of dues by Member States.

    Linkages between the various proposals and outcomes of the different negotiating processes were not helpful and should be avoided.  The setting of artificial deadlines for conclusion of negotiations was also not conducive.  "Reform is not an end in itself, and Member States have to take sensible decisions to ensure that the United Nations is able to undertake a broad range of activities in the immediate and longer term", she said.

    RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) said he fully supported the statement by South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and reiterated his support for the Declaration of the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 and China in Malaysia.  Cuba attached high importance to the United Nations reform process and agreed with many delegations on the need to achieve a more efficient and effective United Nations.  That was why his delegation reiterated its willingness to work jointly with all Member States in seeking a consensus under the principles of sovereign equality, transparency and inclusion, and far from high-handed impositions, threats and blackmail.

    His delegation considered that imposing financial conditions would be of no help to the reform process.  Quite the opposite:  it would not only put the Organization in a critical situation in undertaking its activities, but would also affect the willingness of many Member States to participate in an honest, open and constructive dialogue.  The shameful spending cap imposed on the Secretary-General last year under huge pressure by the main contributors should be lifted without restrictions.  Likewise, if Member States were to really achieve agreements, they should not impose negotiating packages that kept some proposals and other negotiating processes hostage.  Nor should Member States impose artificial deadlines on the negotiations.  The proposals had been numerous, and all delegations should analyse them with rigour.

    He regretted that some elements contained in the reports submitted last Friday did not respond to what had been agreed on in resolution 60/260, he said.  Those proposals should be reformulated to bring them in line with what had been requested by Member States.  The proposals submitted under Addendum 2 of the report were a case in point.  The Secretariat was not a negotiating party in the process and, therefore, it should abide in full by the decisions of the Assembly.  In that regard, his delegation was ready to consider the proposals contained in Annexes 1, 2 and 4.  However, many of them still needed more elaboration by the Secretariat.

    He added that, although Cuba commended the work of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), whose report would undoubtedly be very useful, in some cases, it would have liked to have had more precise recommendations.  The reform measures to be approved would have a financial impact on the Organization, which should be assumed by Member States.  One should not put more pressure on the Secretariat requesting that it implement measures with the same level of resources approved for the biennium.

    CHO HYUN (Republic of Korea) said that, when the negotiations at the United Nations faced difficulties, it was worthwhile to return to a spirit of consensus and compromise.  At the Summit last September, the world leaders had requested the Secretary-General to make proposals for consideration by the Assembly on the conditions and measures necessary for him to carry out his managerial responsibilities effectively.  They had also called on the Secretary-General to submit proposals for implementing management reforms to the Assembly for consideration and decision in the first quarter of 2006.  The Secretary-General had presented his report last March.  The Committee now had four areas of the reform proposals under their consideration:  information and communication technology, budget implementation, finance management, and the consolidation of reports.  Those four addenda fell short of the initial proposals, but they still provided a good basis for making the United Nations more effective and efficient.

    On information and communication technology, he supported the creation of a position of Chief Information Technology Officer, whose portfolio, as described in the addendum, seemed reasonable and acceptable.  He concurred with the ACABQ that if the post was established, it should be held by a qualified expert with extensive professional experience, in-depth knowledge and proven managerial ability.  While acknowledging a pressing need to move rapidly towards overcoming deficiencies in information and communication technology in the UN system, he believed it was necessary to proceed prudently to avoid repeating past mistakes and ensure the best possible benefits by eliminating duplication, streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, and improving financial controls.  The proposed post must play an instrumental role in those processes from the beginning.

    He also noted the high cost estimate of $120 million and the linkage of the information and communication technology strategy with the adoption of a next-generation enterprise resource planning system and with the introduction of IPSAS by the Secretariat.  He trusted a more detailed, accurate and comprehensive analysis and plan, including cost parameters, would be presented at the next session of the Assembly.

    Concerning budget implementation, he noted that the Secretary-General had modified his initial proposals and submitted two proposals for limited discretion--- transfers between budget sections within parts of the budget and redeployment, reclassification and conversion of posts.  He supported the strengthened flexibility of the Secretary-General in managing the Secretariat and resources.  It was in nobody's interest for the Organization to be operated under rigid regulations that were no longer suitable for the current mandates and activities.  Flexibility should be coupled with accountability.  In return for increased discretion, Member States should be provided with enhanced accountability mechanisms.  A detailed addendum on accountability was forthcoming, and he hoped that it would give Member States a clearer understanding and greater assurances regarding that principle.  However, putting accountability ahead of flexibility was putting the cart before the horse:  greater accountability without increased flexibility would make it even harder for the Secretary-General to manage effectively.

    Discussion of Addendum 3 required both technical clarifications and political decisions, he continued.  Concerning the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts into a single one, his delegation agreed with the benefits of allowing greater flexibility in the use of peacekeeping resources, including more consistent and timely reimbursements to troop and police contributors.  As such, that proposal merited favourable consideration.  He also appreciated that the ACABQ and the Secretariat had worked together to find an approach that maintained the link between peacekeeping assessments and specific mandates set by the Security Council.  On the proposal to enhance the current reporting system, his delegation supported the intention of the Secretary-General to submit a single, comprehensive annual report with both financial and programme information.  The ACABQ comments, on the need to define more clearly the purpose and target audience of the report, were valid and should be taken into account.  At that stage, the report should target the Member States as its audience.  His delegation also noted paragraph 8 of Add.4, which pointed out that the planned report would not require action by Member States, while recognizing the importance of feedback from Member States in validating and refining the report.

    PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARRISE DA FONTOURA (Brazil) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and said that he wanted to address the issue of the use of open source software.  He welcomed the recommendations of the JIU on the matter and agreed with the Unit that the United Nations system should more closely embrace the open source software to ensure that all Member States and other stakeholders had the right to access electronic information and materials without having to purchase specific software products.  The purchase of software should not be a prerequisite for access to public information published by the UN organizations through their websites.  He was particularly interested in the information provided in the JIU report on several Member States' policies on open source software.  There was, indeed, a growing trend in its use by public administrations throughout the world.  He also welcomed the information on the experiences of developing countries from Latin America, Africa and Asia.  He believed there was a need for improving South-South cooperation in that regard.

    He appreciated that members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) had broadly acknowledged the usefulness of open source software and the opportunities it presented, including its cost savings, he continued.  Along with the delegation of South Africa, on behalf of the Group of 77, Brazil expected that the Secretariat would provide Member States with a report with clear proposals on how to increase the use of open source software in full respect to section V (f) of resolution 60/260.  In Brazil, the use of open source software had supported public policies of digital inclusion, which were aimed at supporting initiatives for hunger and poverty eradication and sustainable development.  He was glad that the JIU had quoted in its report a new digital-inclusion initiative called "PC Conectado", through which his Government subsidized the purchase of open source software-based computers by low-income citizens and small business owners.

    FRANCIS MUMBEY-WAFULA (Uganda) said the sixty-first session of the General Assembly should be remembered for its constructive engagement on proposals to make a better Organization.  To ensure progress in negotiations, there was a need to be sensitive to areas where progress could be made.  One should, however, be wary of pushing for contentious proposals if speedy consensus was expected.  Since the Fifth Committee was the master of its own game, he would leave it to the wisdom of members to find adequate time for negotiations.  A lot of progress could be made in the spirit of compromise.

    JOHN J. NG'ONGOLO (United Republic of Tanzania) said there was an urgent need for effective reform measures, but reforms must aim at promoting and protecting the interests of the entire membership.  Fundamental principles, such as respect for sovereign equality and maintaining the true international character of the Organization, should be observed.  Proposed reform measures should not be seen as advancing only the interest of one country or a few members.

    He supported proposals to update and integrate the United Nations information and communication technology system and the establishment of the new post of Chief Information Officer at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.  In that regard, recruitment for the office should be carried out in a transparent manner and with due regard to geographical distribution.  He was concerned that if the bad recruitment practices of the past continued, the Organization would never reflect the required international character.

    He said that, ideally, the Secretary-General should have limited discretionary powers in management, given the right environment for him to exercise such powers without any covert external influence.  Such an ideal environment did not exist, but he was willing to consider a limited flexibility on a provisional basis and anchored in open accountability to the Committee.  Proposals regarding discretionary exercise in budgetary implementation appeared to be beyond the mandate of the Secretary-General.  In that regard, he welcomed the recommendations of the ACABQ on the flexibility issue.

    On consolidation of peacekeeping budgets, he proposed that notifications to Member States on their contributions should also include projected contributions to facilitate planning.  Regarding allowing the general public more access to documents, he said denying public access would put the public at risk of distorted information from others.  He welcomed the proposal on having an annual comprehensive report on the performance of the Organization that would be easily accessible to the public.  He did not share the ACABQ observation that such a report would be too technical to the public.  He proposed that the annual report be issued to the general public after Member States had taken action on the report.  Underlining the importance of bringing the Organization closer to the public, he stressed the importance of strengthening multilingualism and the need to strengthen all its Information Centres.

    RODRIGO YAÑEZ PILGRIM (Venezuela) associated himself with the position of the Group of 77 and China and supported the statement by Brazil on the use of open source software. He also supported the comments by the CEB and the recommendations of the JIU on that matter.  Venezuela had made considerable progress in the use of open source software, and the matter was being further discussed.  He hoped for further democratization in the area of information and knowledge sharing and believed the use of open source software by the United Nations systems would be highly beneficial.

    KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) stressed his country's strong commitment to serious reforms of the United Nations aiming at enhanced transparency, accountability and a more effective human resources and financial resources management.  The issues of particular importance to his delegations included procurement, modernization of the information and communication technology architecture and limited discretion of the Secretary-General in the redeployment of resources and posts.  With regard to procurement reform, he looked forward to the detailed report that was expected later this month and a serious discussion on that important item as soon as possible.  On information and communication technology modernization, he supported the establishment of the post of Chief Information Technology Officer.

    Turning to the issue of the Secretary-General's discretionary authority in budget implementation, accompanied by increased accountability, he said his delegation had argued for that for several months as an important pillar in the overall Secretariat management reform.  The Assembly in its resolution 60/246 had "recognized the need for limited discretion in budgetary implementation for the Secretary-General within defined parameters to be agreed by the General Assembly, along with clear accountability mechanisms to the Assembly for its use."  The question now was to what extent, under what conditions and with what accountability such discretionary authority should be implemented.

    The authority currently granted to the Secretary-General under resolutions 58/270 and 60/246 was redeployment of up to 50 posts to meet the needs of the Organization, he continued. That authority, however, was not being fully utilized, largely due to a lack of funding to support it. Its implementation was, in effect, left to bureaucratic wheeling and dealing among programme managers in which they were expected to give up voluntarily the posts they controlled.  In reality, such an arrangement was, even with the best of intentions, unlikely to produce the desired outcome.  Some particular ways would need to be found to address the gaps for effective implementation of the discretionary authority of the Secretary-General.

    Regarding the modified Secretary-General's proposals before the Committee, he said that, while he appreciated the desire that had prompted those proposals, they appeared to be rather too ambitious and broad in scope to be generally acceptable.  At the present juncture, a more discreet and modest approach was more likely to lead to a consensus, if a formula struck a right balance between the Secretary-General's aspiration to be managerially responsible and Member States' call for more accountability to the Assembly.  He suggested that the Secretary-General be given a modest discretion in budget implementation to utilize the savings that derived from the gaps between projected and actual vacancy rates, within a ceiling of up to 1 to 2 per cent of post costs.  The Secretary-General would be able to use those resources to meet the emerging priority needs of the Organization, such as filling temporary posts and providing general temporary assistance and related operational costs, in order to attain the mandated programmes and activities.  That flexibility should be exercised with the prior concurrence of the ACABQ.  The Secretary-General would report on the utilization of that authority to the Assembly in the context of his performance reports.  And finally, such limited discretion would be granted on an experimental basis.

    On the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, his delegation had serious doubts about the proposal.  He was concerned that the consolidation could have a negative effect on some Member States' payment of arrears.  In terms of timely reimbursement to troop- and police-contributing countries, the more fundamental and underlying cause of delayed reimbursement to troop-contributing countries had been the non-payment of assessments by Member States.  Without payment, that issue could not be solved.  Peacekeeping operations had a unique budget and assessment arrangement, with assessments for each mission justified by individual Security Council decision to create a mandate.  The requirement of both individual Security Council decisions and assessments corresponding to such action must be strictly observed, and any blurring of that requirement would create difficulties for certain Member States, including his own, to justify payment of assessments.  Also, as the ACABQ had correctly pointed out, the scope and quality of information provided on the financing of peacekeeping operations should not be diminished.

    THOMAS REPASCH (United States) said the Fifth Committee was again poised to take concrete, "albeit much scaled down", actions on an array of reforms.  Decisive action must be taken now to modernize the Secretariat and improve oversight and accountability.  In order to demonstrate commitment to real reform, it was also critical that Member States took up the actual review of mandates of the Organization.

    He said some modest progress had been achieved since the World Summit, including the establishment of an ethics office and whistle-blower protection.  Now the necessary steps must be taken to demonstrate that the United Nations and its Member States were fully engaged in a "lasting revolution of reform".  It was regrettable that the full range of management reform proposals from the Secretary-General's report on "Investing in the UN" had been scaled back.

    On specifics, he said he supported the need for modernization of the United Nations' infrastructure regarding information and communication technology and endorsed the ACABQ recommendations in that regard.  Existing budget practices were not compatible with needs of a modern, priority-driven organization.  He differed, therefore, with ACABQ conclusions on budget transfers and staffing table adjustments.  He welcomed agreement between the Secretary-General and the ACABQ regarding the need for adoption of internationally recognized accounting standards.  He also agreed with the Secretary-General's plan for a comprehensive annual report and strongly endorsed the proposal to elaborate a clear policy for public access to UN records.  Finally, he supported the Secretary-General's call for a consensus approach to achieve needed reforms.

    Regarding the use of open source software, DAVID TRAYSTMAN (United States) said that, while he appreciated efforts made by the JIU, he had serious concerns about the narrow approach taken in the study.  The comments in the report of the CEB were balanced and objective.  Quoting from those comments, which, among other things, said the JIU's report did not include a comprehensive analysis of the potentials and constraints of open source products, he said he questioned the expertise of the JIU to carry out such a technical and highly specialized study.

    He asked whether the Unit had engaged a team of experts who could approach the subject objectively and comprehensively and sought clarification about the quality control process used by the inspectors to review and approve the report.  Because of those concerns, his delegation was unable to endorse the report or its recommendations.

    Ms. LOCK (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that she continued to fully support the comprehensive plan for the refurbishment of the UN Headquarters complex and, as pointed out by the Group at the time of the adoption of resolution 60/256, it was very disappointed that the Secretariat had been deprived of the funds that were needed for the refurbishment to proceed expeditiously.  As for the report on the possibility of constructing a new permanent building on the North Lawn, due to the lack of sufficient time and resources, many details that would facilitate the debate on the proposal had not been taken into account.  For example, the analysis excluded the important aspects of security and architectural concerns and used the assumption that the new building would be exclusively for long-term planning purposes.  No further information had been provided in respect of swing space requirements.

    Noting the recommendation that the matter of the permanent building be considered independently from the renovation, she said that, given the urgency of the situation, it might be the choice at the moment.  The Advisory Committee had also pointed to that fact.  The Group disagreed, however, with the ACABQ's statement that the issues of swing space and a permanent building were not linked.  While Member States might have to delink those issues based on the situation, it must be clearly recalled that the concept of a new building on the Robert Moses playground, which would provide swing space and subsequently be used as a consolidation building, was integral to the Capital Master Plan when it was approved by Member States.  Therefore, the matter could not be simply dismissed as it would appear from some statements.  Much of the additional cost with which the Assembly was currently faced was due to the reneging on the commitments made by the host country and the collapse of many of the assumptions that had initially underpinned it, including the availability of swing space.

    The Group reiterated its commitment to the project and did not wish to see any further delay in its implementation, she said.  While strategy IV might seem to be the immediately most feasible one, the Group believed that the option of having additional capacity a new building should remain open, and concerted efforts should be made to undertake a more detailed, thorough and objective analysis of the idea of constructing a new permanent building on the North Lawn.  One of the urgent issues that had to be decided at this session was that of the financing of the Capital Master Plan.  The Group would need certain questions to be clarified in informal consultations.  She agreed with Mr. Reuter that the time had come to move from a "Plan" to a "Project".

    ALEJANDRO TORRES LEPORI (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterating the Group's "most firm support" for the Capital Master Plan, said prompt action was necessary to prevent further deterioration of the building and staff working environment.  The Secretary-General's report provided a good basis for bridging gaps in consensus, and the report of the Advisory Committee had given broad guidelines for deliberations.  The Assembly in its deliberations should also take into account those factors.  The Secretariat should take due note of the Organization's artistic heritage and carefully preserve all works of art during refurbishment of the buildings.

    ANJA ZOBRIST RENTENAAR (Switzerland) supported the conclusions and recommended course of action outlined in the Secretary-General's report on the Capital Master Plan.  From the outset, her delegation had considered the construction of a new permanent building on the North Lawn a valuable option, which made economic and long-term corporate sense.  Strategy III would have been Switzerland's preferred option, provided the new building could be used for swing space.  The timing, however, did not permit it.  She, therefore, fully supported the Secretary-General's recommendation of strictly separating the renovation of the Headquarters from any plan of constructing a new permanent building.  At this late stage, it was important to focus of what was really at stake -- the urgent need to renovate the Secretariat Building in order to ensure the safety and well-being of its occupants -- and to move forward decisively with strategy IV.  Any further delay had to be avoided.  There were, after all, escalating costs of $10 million a month to be factored in, as well.

    Although her delegation did not have a firm position at this time, it did not agree with the ACABQ that there was no merit in conducting a comprehensive feasibility study.  That question had to be carefully considered, and she was looking forward to taking it up at the next session.  In the meantime, her delegation would want to ensure that no action was taken that would preclude the construction of a new permanent building on the North Lawn at some future date.

    It was with great regret that her delegation had learned of the resignation of Mr. Reuter, who had brought "a breath of fresh air to this Committee", she said in conclusion.  She wished him all the best in his future endeavours.

    Ms. RODRIGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said that Mr. Reuter's professionalism had shown how an international civil servant should comport himself.  The Fifth Committee had once again before it a report on the Capital Master Plan and was once again in the same position as six years ago.  As in previous sessions, the report had been introduced at a late stage, which made a definitive solution impossible.

    She underlined the importance of improving the environment and facilities for Member States and staff.  The United Nations was in its current situation because neither the City and State of New York nor the United States Congress had complied with their commitments regarding a new building.  Furthermore, the host country's delegation had placed obstacles for approval of funds for 2005.

    Although her delegation thought that strategy III was best in the long term, she agreed with the Group of 77 that the time had come to work on the basis of strategy IV.  She hoped that informal consultations would yield positive results so that the UN Headquarters could be made safer for all users.

    MAXIM N. GOLOVINOV (Russian Federation) said that the need for refurbishment of the United Nations Headquarters complex had already been addressed, but not much progress had been achieved in solving such fundamental questions as the financing of the project and the beginning of the construction itself.  In the meantime, the cost of the project was growing.  Russia supported constructive consideration of the matter on the basis of strategy IV, which had been recommended by the Secretary-General.  His delegation's position of principle was that financing of the project must be carried out through direct assessment on Member States.  In discussing the mechanism of securing the necessary cash resources in the event that some Member States failed to live up to their financial obligations to the Organization, including those in the form of the letters of credit, Russia would continue to adhere to the premise that additional expenses resulting from the delays must be charged to the debtors themselves.

    As followed from earlier Secretariat reports and clarification, the phased approach to the reconstruction had been costed on the basis of the current staffing and organizational structure of the Secretariat and did not involve any changes either in the working methods or the situation of any offices or departments.  Moving back from their swing space, all Secretariat staff must return to their repaired offices.  Taking into account the scale of the project and the proposed delegation of authority to the management company, he attached particular importance to the unconditional adherence to the rules and procedures, as well as Assembly resolutions regulating the administrative, budgetary and procurement fields.  He hoped that even now, at the stage of selection of the management company and subsequent holding of competitive bides for the right to carry out the plan, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Board of Auditors would be particularly focused on that issue.

    He said he was grateful for the submission of the analysis of the feasibility of construction of a permanent building on the North Lawn.  Even though, at the present time, priority must be attached to the strategy for the Capital Master Plan implementation, the decision on that matter should not be postponed for a long time.

    In conclusion, he expressed gratitude to Mr. Reuter for his tireless efforts and high professionalism as the head of the Capital Master Plan.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria) recalled that the JIU last Friday on another subject had said that there was a tendency to reward conservative approaches instead of creativity.  She said that comment was applicable to the current situation, underlining that the professionals had undertaken an analysis on a building on the North Lawn within a limited time and working free of charge.  Nevertheless, they had been able to come to some preliminary conclusions, including that construction of such a building might have certain advantages and that the Assembly should take up the issue at its sixty-first session.  She was, therefore, surprised that the Advisory Committee had dismissed the opinion of professionals.

    KATRINA NOWLAN, Chief of Service III, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, clarified that some $19.7 million had been spent during contract negotiations.  No money had been spent under commitment authority.

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